Sodwana Bay, one of iSimangaliso’s “ten jewels” based centrally in the coastal zone of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park world heritage site, is being upgraded. The upgrade seeks to restore the ecological integrity of this prime beach destination while improving visitor facilities.

This 1970’s-styled resort is receiving a major redevelopment in keeping with the needs of today’s iSimangaliso visitors. This entails the removing of structures that are inappropriate and not fit for purpose, as well as those that compromise the ecology and “sense of place”, one of the outstanding universal values for which iSimangaliso was inscribed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1999.

The redevelopment of Sodwana Bay is the next phase in a series of transformations that have taken place in the Park. To date the iSimangaliso Authority has spent some R120m improving day-visitor facilities and selected accommodation in the Park.

The first phases tackled four sections of the Park:  Eastern and Western Shores of Lake St Lucia, Lake St Lucia Estuary and beaches and uMkhuze, resulting in modern, people-friendly facilities. Hides, ablutions, camping accommodation, viewing decks, canopy walks, picnic sites, gate buildings, and associated parking have been completed. These are supported through the development of an ecologically diverse self-drive game viewing network.

Sodwana, internationally known as one of the top 10 dive sites globally for its magnificent coral reefs, is an integral and highly valued part of iSimangaliso.

Sodwana Bay is home to some of the most rare and endangered forest types – Swamp forest image: Jan Sliva

Thorough assessments have been undertaken by Park and independent specialists, including dune ecologists and planners. Some initial measures to mitigate pressures and improve parking have already been implemented.

The complete redevelopment of Sodwana’s day visitor areas includes a new gate complex with multiple lanes; the replacement and relocation of existing dive shop/retail, compressor facilities, convenience and food outlets; new community safety and first aid facilities; replacement and new ablutions; improved parking; new signage and park furniture such as picnic tables; and the rebuilding of the craft trading area. Facilities will be disabled-friendly.

“Successful change happens with good planning and public input. The many comments already received from people clearly demonstrate a strong conservation ethic and a public interest to protect the integrity of Sodwana Bay as a near- pristine environment; …. the balance that has been struck between ecological conservation, preservation of world heritage values, user convenience, development and equitable access will result in long-term benefits to visitors and business-owners in the region.

Ultimately the success of Sodwana as a destination is dependent on the conservation of iSimangaliso’s world heritage values namely ecosystems, bio diversity and superlative natural value of astounding beauty” – Andrew Zaloumis, iSimangaliso CEO.

Article Source – iSimangaliso Wetland Park

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